Monthly Archives: January 2013

Blue Monday

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Today is Blue Monday, the Monday which is supposed to be the most depressing of the entire year to come.  Several years ago, the third Monday of January was decided upon for this dubious honour, after taking into account the weather and the time still to wait for spring, the time since Christmas and the debt we may have accumulated over the festive period, as well as – for many of us – having had long enough to have given up on our New Year resolutions.  But as I wrote in a recent post, we can resolve on positive change at any time of the year, so we can start anew at any time that suits us – and spring is often a great time for doing just that, when we have the whole of nature joining with us!

And as for the weather, well it is snowy and cold, but it IS January, and it could be a lot worse!  I am definitely in the wrong country for year-round blue skies, but I like the variety of the weather through the seasons, which is often echoed in our own mental states.  It isn’t all that realistic to expect to be happy all the time, and in fact our pursuit of happiness may be what causes us the most distress.  We try to hold on to the things which we perceive as making us happy, whilst pushing away those things which make us miserable.  But to experience true moments of joy, we  need to embrace all aspects of our lives, not just those we label as ‘good’.  We have to have winter as well as summer, we need Mondays to follow the weekends, and life cannot be one long holiday for the vast majority of us.  And so true happiness involves acceptance and an ability to flow through the seasons as well as allowing our feelings to come and go without trying to hold on to the moments of happiness.  In ‘The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking’, journalist  Oliver Burkeman questions the validity of happiness as a goal, being as chasing after happiness can make us so unhappy.  This insight is fundamental to the practice of both yoga and Buddhism, and perhaps we would find happiness easier to achieve if we practised acceptance of all our states of mind,  of  all the events of our lives, not just those we label as good, but of those we might initially consider ‘bad’ as well.  We would likely achieve a more balanced and calmer mind, and that in itself can lead to greater contentment with our lives.

Changing ourselves

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Recently I have been noticing that so many people say they hate this, they hate that……about themselves, about others, about the circumstances of their lives. Whilst hate is a strong word to use, it is bandied around on a daily basis – I hear it all the time.

Being unhappy about a particular part of our lives can be an important instigator of change. It can give us the push we need to address an issue which has maybe got out of hand. We try to change the circumstances which are bothering us, and perhaps we may manage to improve the quality of our day to day life.

But what exactly is it we are attempting to change? Ultimately it is only  ourselves we can change.  We can temper our reactions to others and to the events of our lives. And by doing this, we might get a new insight; we might realise that the thing or person that was bothering us is not so bad after all. We might take ourselves out of the equation and realise that not everything is a personal attack – that that way of thinking is just our ego putting us in the centre of the universe.

And sometimes, just by seeing the events and people of our lives in a more impersonal way, a little bit of magic happens and those who were upsetting us seem to change along with ourselves. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see in the world.  Whatever we want to change in the external world, we need to start internally, with our own hearts and minds. And until those changes begin to manifest, we need to practise an equanimity, an acceptance of all the people and events of our lives, and to know the difference between what we can change, and those things we cannot.